General information

Course type AMUPIE
Module title Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Mapping socio-scientific controversies.
Language English
Module lecturer prof. UAM dr hab. Andrzej Wojciech Nowak
Lecturer's email
Lecturer position Professor
Faculty Faculty of Philosophy
Semester 2023/2024 (summer)
Duration 30
USOS code 23-PIE-FUD


11:30 - 13:00 room 206 Campus Ogrody, Szamarzewskiego building C, Philosophy Faculty

Module aim (aims)

Pre-requisites in terms of knowledge, skills and social competences (where relevant)

Main aim of this module is to introduce student into mapping of socio-scientific controversies, and social fears. The point of departure of module are science and technology studies (STS). In our contemporary society scientific and technological development raises social and political concerns. Some of those concerns are intertwined with a an role of a science in science. Disccusiona about socio-scientific controversies are very often are often at an impasse - on the one hand, we have the anti-irrational criticism, which is expressed by arousing scepticism about the sciences and technology, on the other hand, there is reductionist scientism, which perceives science and technology in a seamless mode. Moreover, fears and doubts have become weapons in political disputes, a way of building economic advantage and creating cultural hegemony. As a result, in module will be presented the third way, arguing that either far reaching critique of science or positivistic technocratic approach are not sufficient to deal with nowadays challenges. In a course science will be presented not as something theory-based (as traditional philosophy of science tended to do), but rather practice-based, namely, something that is constructed, created, tinkered. With such a process-oriented and practice-focused approach to technology and science, we will follow its functioning "in the wild", i.e. in the circulation of scientific facts in the social world and their role in stabilizing and destabilizing the social, cultural and political.In addition to the main objective, the module wants to achieve the following sub-aims:First sub-aim of this module is to explore a global difference of production of knowledge and scientific and social controversies. The examples of latters are anti-vaccination movements, ADHD, AIDS, global warming, shale gas, GMO and polish “War with gender” debate.Second sub-aim It will trace the specific political economy of irrationalism, fears and doubts and map the infrastructure used to spread them. To this end, we will focus on analysing the Internet for social and scientific communication and political, ideological, non-scientific ways of shaping social controversies


SYLLABUS:Week 1: Introduction: Fear, Uncertanity and DoubtsWeek 2: Mapping of socio-scientific controversies - introduction Week 3: Mapping of socio-scientific controversies: knowledge asymmetries: lay people, experts and mediaWeek 4: Mapping of socio-scientific controversies: global knowledge asymmetriesWeek 5: Tools: Circulatory model of scientific practices Week 6: Case study: Antivaccination movementWeek 7: Case study: Biopolitcs, science and social activism: case of AIDSWeek 8: Case study: Climate and merchant of doubtsWeek 9: Case study: Self tracking and auto medicalisation – body in technoscientific practisesWeek 10: Case study: knowledge infrastrutures of right movements - “war on genderWeek 11: Workshop - practical mapping of controversies selected by participantsWeek 12: Workshop - practical mapping of controversies selected by participantsWeek 13: Workshop - practical mapping of controversies selected by participantsWeek 14: Workshop - practical mapping of controversies selected by participantsWeek 15: Reshaping public sphere through mapping of socio-scientific controversies

Reading list


First module: Agntology and hypernormalisation – where we are now?

To read:

Chapter 1: Antotology, from book: A G N O T O L O G Y The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance Edited by Robert N. Proctor and Londa Schiebinger

To listen:

To watch:

HyperNormalisation (2016 + subs) by Adam Curtis


Second module

Merchants of Doubts – how we get there?

To read: 

  1. Chapter 3: Challenging Knowledge: How Climate Science Became a Victim of the Cold War, N A O M I O R E S K E S, ERIK M. CONWAY, from book: A G N O T O L O G Y The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance Edited by Robert N. Proctor and Londa Schiebinger 
  2. Chapter 1. from book: David Michaels, Doubt is their product. How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health
  3. Orseskes, Conway, Defeating the merchants of doubt, Nature Vol, 465/10 June 2010

To watch:  

Naomi Oreskes: Why we should trust scientists

Third module

If You do not know what is going on – follow the money.

To read

Weaponizing Philanthropy

  1. Jane Mayer, The War of Ideas, 1970–2008, from book “ Dark Money. The hidden history od the billionaires behind the ris of the radical right”
  2. Susan George, “HOW TO WIN THE WAR OF IDEAS. Lessons from the Gramscian Right”

To watch:

  1. Jane Mayer / The Koch Brothers and the Weaponizing of Philanthropy


Fourth Module

Power of institutionalisation, struggle of hegemony and winning a “common sense”

To read

  1. Stephen Olbrys Gencarella Gramsci, Good Sense, and Critical Folklore Studies
  2. Report: Modern-day Crusaders in Europe. Tradition, Family and Property: Analysis of a Transnational, Ultra-conservative, Catholic-inspired Influence Network
  3. RESTORING ORDER THE NATURAL The religious extremists’ vision to mobilize European societies against human rights on sexuality and reproduction

To watch

(non-compulsory) The Family: It's Not About Faith, It's About Power | Official Trailer | Netflix

Fifth Module

Antivaccination movement, Wakefield, and power of media

To read

  2. Dla chętnych książka: Wojna o szczepionki. Jak doktor Wakefield oszukał świat (english title The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Science, Deception, and the War on Vaccines, Autor: Brian Deer

To watch

  2. Alex Jones about Vaccines (Alex Jones - Szczepionki które uczynią Cię posłusznym) (clip in materials, english movie, polish subtitles, please do not share outside class, this material is controversial).

Six Module

Hot to go out of trap? Patients, movements, logic of care and market

To read:

  1. Chapter: Two logics from book: Annemarie Mol, Logic of Care. Health and the problem of patient choice
  2. Steven Epstein, Patient Groups and Health Movements
  3. Steven Epstein, The Construction of Lay Expertise: AIDS Activism and the Forging of Credibility in the Reform of Clinical Trials

To watch:

  1. The Life-Saving Legacy of HIV/AIDS Activist Peter Staley | Legendary | NowThis

  1. Non-compulsory